Very rarely do people consult a Family Court attorney under good circumstances. Your spouse has cheated on you. Your ex-spouse won’t let you see your children. Things are not the way they should be. When experiencing such a crisis, it can be difficult for people to choose the right attorney to assist them. Complicating things even more is that Family Court cases are often a person’s first experience with attorneys and the legal process.

The more you can educate yourself on where to turn, who to trust, and what to do, the better off you will be. There are many ways to look for an attorney. You can open the yellow pages, research on the internet, or ask your friends. However, many people do not feel comfortable asking their friends and family to refer them to an attorney due to the types of issues that are often involved in Family Court cases. For instance, you may not want your best friend to know that your spouse has cheated on you.

If you are researching attorneys via the yellow pages, internet, blogs, or other media, there are certain things that you should know to help you choose who to use. This article is written to assist people in that situation. Why should you trust your children, your finances, or other such important issues to the person that has the biggest or flashiest ad? I believe that you should have as much information as possible to aid you in deciding which attorney you let represent you. Consider the following seven factors when choosing your attorney:

1. What experience does the attorney have?

    How many years has the lawyer been in practice? What percentage of the lawyer’s cases are in Family Court matters? How long has the attorney been practicing in your city or area? The greater the lawyer has been practicing, the greater likelihood he has seen cases like yours and will know how to handle your case. Does the attorney devote the majority of his practice (ideally 2/3 or more) to family court cases? The longer the attorney has been practicing in your area, the better he will know the likes / dislikes / tendencies of the other persons involved in your case (such as judges, opposing counsel, Guardian ad Litem), and the better he can then prepare your case accordingly.

    What is the attorney’s record of success? How has the attorney handled cases in the past that are similar to yours? What results has he achieved recently? Obviously every case is different, but discussing similar types of cases he has handled in the past can give you some insight into how the attorney analyzes and handles his cases. Is the attorney willing to provide you with the names of references who are willing to discuss their experiences with you?

2. What type of firm does the lawyer have?

    Is he part of a big law firm, small firm, or is he a solo practitioner? Just because the lawyer works in a big firm doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you. Likewise, just because an attorney is a solo practitioner doesn’t mean he’s not capable of successfully handling your case.

    There are many advantages to using a solo practitioner or a small firm: you get individual, personalized attention; an attorney who knows everything about your case; an attorney who returns your calls promptly; and someone who doesn’t take on more cases than he can manage.

    With a larger firm, you may have multiple attorneys handling different aspects of your case; different attorneys appearing in Court for conferences; your phone calls may not be returned as quickly as you’d like. However, large firms sometimes have more resources than a solo practitioner or small firm.

    Ask your prospective lawyer whether he delegates his work to his associates or paralegals, or does he do it all himself? Does he return your calls, or do the paralegals or associates call you instead? Does the paralegal prepare your important papers (such as pleadings and Orders), or does the lawyer do it?

3. Where is the lawyer’s office?

    Is the attorney’s office conveniently located, with easy access and parking? If you live in one city and your case is pending in another, is it better to have the attorney where you are or where the case is? Does the attorney have more than one office, and is that a good thing?

    If travelling to an attorney’s office is a concern, ask whether the lawyer can travel to your home or office. Many attorneys will accommodate a client, if they are physically unable to travel. However, there are significant advantages in meeting with the attorney in his office: (a) to see how the lawyer operates, (b) to meet his staff, and (c) to enable the attorney to see how the client adjusts to being in an unfamiliar setting. This last part is vitally important, as it gives the attorney an early opportunity to evaluates you as a potential witness at trial.

4. Do the attorney and his staff act in a professional manner?

    Does he meet with clients in a prompt and timely manner, or does he routinely make them wait long periods of time at each appointment? Can he see you on short notice if an emergency arises? If a conflict arises, will his staff call to notify you in advance and attempt to reschedule your appointment promptly? Is his staff discrete and do they actively protect your privacy?

5. How does the attorney communicate with his clients?

    Does the attorney have a policy of sending clients copies of letter and other documents sent from his office? How often should you expect to hear from the attorney regarding your case? Are clients able to email the attorney and/or his staff rather than calling on the phone? Is communication by email welcomed or encouraged? How promptly are emails answered? Can letters and other important information be sent to the client by email?

    Does the attorney publish current information on family law topics? Is this done via cutting-edge technologies, such as blogs or websites? Does the attorney even maintain a current website? Does the attorney provide only basic information with bland material, or does he provide a reader with important information they need to know to educate them before they ever call him or walk into his office.

6. When your case goes to Court, will the attorney be there with you or will he send one of his junior associates?

    This is a very important question. You are hiring an attorney, not a lawfirm. Will the lawyer you meet during your first office visit be the person sitting beside you in Court? Do you want to risk being "handed off" to another attorney or an associate shortly before Court? On the other hand, do you want to be sure that you get one attorney and he handles all aspects of your case from start to finish.

7. Does the attorney educate his clients?

    Does the attorney strive to provide as much information as possible to his client? Are clients treated with dignity and respect, or are they taken for granted? How involved will you be in your case? Does the attorney recognize that the client is his boss? Are important decisions made after consultation and discussion between the attorney and client, or does the attorney simply dictate how things will be handled?

Knowing this information will make you a better informed consumer. Hiring a lawyer is an important part of learning about your legal rights. Ask lots of questions and trust your instincts about any lawyer you speak to. Good luck.

Thanks to Gerry Oginski‘s article at the NY Medical Malpractice blog for his post on this general topic.

SOURCE FOR POST: South Carolina Family Law Blog